JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - The recently passed amendment to Jacksonville's Human Rights Ordinance (HRO) that's designed to provide protections for the LGBT community is facing a new hurdle: A lawsuit that accuses it of being an "illegal ordinance."
The Liberty Counsel, an Orlando-based religious group known to be against the HRO, filed the lawsuit Wednesday morning. According Roger Gannam, the group's Assistant Vice President of Legal Affairs, the HRO amendment that was passed earlier this month violates Florida law, Jacksonville City Code and the City Council Rules due to its shortened language. Their goal: To have a judge strike it down and invalidate it.
Prior versions of the bill that failed to pass in 2012 and 2016 were roughly 14 pages. This year, it was shortened to five pages so it would be "more readable" and "simple to understand" said City Councilman, Aaron Bowman of District 3, one of the bill's sponsors. The other two sponsors include Tommy Hazouri, At-large Group 3, and Jim Love of District 13.
"They intentionally made the ordinance shorter than the prior HRO and they did that so they could message it as something new and different; something that included new protections for small businesses and religious organizations," Gannam said.
"But by not including the full language, what they were able to accomplish is hiding the fact that this is no different than 2012 296, an ordinance that was defeated by a vote of 17-to-2 in the City Council," Gannam added.
The lawsuit says both Florida law and the Jacksonville City Ordinance Code require the re-publishing of the paragraphs that are amended. The City Council Rules requires the underlining and striking through of the language that's omitted.
First Coast News has reached out to Councilman Bowman, who said he was "very comfortable with the legislation."
"It went through our normal vetting process. It went through the standards, which includes a legal review," Bowman said. "But as with any legislation we file, if someone doesn't believe it was done right, they have the ability to take legal action."
A court date for the lawsuit has not been set.